Homemade Brioche (Oh glorious buttery Brioche)
There is a fair amount of hype around brioche, and it’s for good reason. Brioche is a wonderful cross between bread and pastry, with a rich flavor and light texture. Brioche is very easy to make (and probably the most fun bread I’ve made), but you really need a stand mixer to make it. There is a LOT of kneading in the mixer, the dough is very wet and sticky, and the butter needs to stay cool. The good news? This brioche is a prelude to a recipe I will be posting shortly…brioche french toast! Mmm.
First you start by making the sponge.
What is a sponge? It’s a little precursor to the dough that adds a deep flavor and a lovely texture to the bread, and is considered the equivalent of adding another rise.
You cover the sponge with flour, and let it sit until the flour cracks:
The sponge is then turned into a dough, and kneaded:
You throw butter into the dough and mix until incorporated:
Start dividing up the dough to put into the loaf pans, and note how beautiful the little yeast bubbles are:
Bake until golden brown and fluffy:
For the Sponge:
1/3 cup warm milk (100 to 110 degrees F)
2 ¼ tsp active dry yeast
1 extra large egg
10 oz all purpose flour (2 cups)
For the Dough:
1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp sea salt
4 extra large eggs, lightly beaten
7.5 ounces all purpose flour (1.5 cups)
1.5 sticks unsalted butter, at 65-70 degrees
Start with the sponge. You can heat up the milk in a saucepan, or just pop it in the microwave for about 20 seconds. Put the milk, yeast, egg, and 1 cup of flour in your stand mixer's bowl. Mix the ingredients with a spatula until all is blended. Sprinkle over the other cup of flour to cover the sponge, and let it rest uncovered for 30 minutes.
After 30 minutes, there should be cracks in the flour. The cracks let you know that the yeast is working its magic!
Good, we are done with the sponge. Now, what's the deal with the sponge? It adds a deep flavor and a lovely texture to the bread, and is considered the equivalent of adding another rise to the bread. Now we will turn it into a dough.
Add the sugar, salt, eggs, and 1 cup (5 oz) of your flour to the sponge. Put the bowl in your stand mixer, and using the dough hook, mix on low for 1 minute, until the dough starts to come together. With the mixer still running on low, add in the remaining 2.5 oz of flour (1/2 cup). When the flour has been incorporated, bump the speed up to medium, and mix for 15 minutes. After 10 minutes have passed, the dough should be slapping itself against the side of the bowl. If it's not, add 3 tbsp more of flour. Make sure you don't skimp on kneading the dough for 15 minutes.
Bash out the butter with a bench scraper on a piece of wax paper or plastic wrap so it's soft and pliable (but not melted or greasy), and turn your mixer down to medium low. Add the butter a couple tbsp at a time, waiting until each installment of butter is absorbed before adding the next. And don't be worried if your butter has a hard time incorporating into the dough. It will be fine. When all the butter has been added, bump the speed up to medium high for a minute, then reduce to medium and knead the dough for 5 minutes. The dough should be slapping the bowl again by the end. The dough will be soft and sticky, and may cling a little bit to the sides of the bowl.
Butter a large bowl (I did a 5 qt bowl), and transfer the dough to that bowl, covering the top tightly with plastic wrap. Let it rise at room temperature for 2 hours, until it has doubled in size.
Since yeast tends to clump up, we want to redistribute the yeast. However, we don't want to deflate the dough too much. So very gently, with a spatula, turn the dough upside down and around to redistribute the yeast a little bit. It's fine if it deflates a little bit, just don't purposely bash it down. Cover again with plastic wrap and let it rise in the refrigerator for 7 hours (you could do as short as 4 hours if it rises enough, but longer rising means more flavor, so it's always best to be patient with bread. Believe me, I am an impatient lady, so I know it's hard lol).
With a sharp knife, gently slice your dough into 3 sections. Cut each section into 6 pieces. You may gently roll those pieces into balls, but I chose to leave them sort of square. Place 6 balls in each loaf pan, and cover with plastic wrap. Let it rise for 2 hours.
When you are ready to bake, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F, and bake for about 30 minutes, until the interior is 200 degrees F on an instant read thermometer. If during the baking process your brioche browns too much, loosely cover the loaves with tin foil. Cool on a baking rack, and enjoy! And make sure you taste some of it when it comes out of the oven...so goooooood!
Recipe adapted from Baking with Julia.